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Simply Traditional by Leland Martin
Album review by: Cheryl H. Hill, Journalist

From his bio: Leland Martin believes in miracles. And why not? With his debut single, "If I Had Long Legs (Like Alan Jackson)," he's already accomplished the impossible, sneaking a little slice of authentic honky-tonk hilarity past country radio's gatekeepers and onto the airwaves.

My husband is career Army and we are in the midst of our seventeenth move in twenty-one years.  I offer this up as an excuse for not getting this album review finished sooner. My excuse is also relevant to the way I reviewed this album. As my husband and I packed our two cars for our trip from Fort Irwin to Fort Sill, I loaded up my CD carrier with all of my favorite albums. Being a devoted fan of traditional country I made sure I had put all of "The Best of" ... (Merle, Willie, Tracy Lawrence, Randy Travis, etc.) CD's into my car. As an after thought, I tossed in Leland Martin.  I usually listen to new CDs while I'm working at my computer, but with my entire office on a moving van somewhere between California and Oklahoma, I decided I that it might be a good idea to listen to him while I could -- where I could.  Besides, with an album titled Simply Traditional, I was eager to put him to the test and give Mr. Martin the ultimate listening analysis. Would he be able to hold his own in the company of some of the greatest country music artists of all time? After listening to him for two days as I drove across Nevada, Arizona and Texas -- and alternating his CD with country legends -- I can tell you that he certainly can.

The album contains thirteen songs plus two Christmas bonus tracks. Being an Army veteran, who is married to a career soldier, I loved the patriotic "Flags On The Christmas Tree."  The song is beautifully written and beautifully sung. I'm sure it will become a holiday classic, especially with military families and friends ... but do yourself a favor and don't wait until Christmas to listen to it. 

In the eighties, Martin toured as a guitarist with the legendary Freddie Hart. He wrote "Freddie's Heart" as a tribute to his former boss, and Hart makes a vocal cameo appearance on the CD when he joins Martin on this song. Their duet is the personification of consummate country and one of the highlights of the album.

Like all great songwriters, Martin draws from his own life experiences, and his life has provided him with plenty of musical fodder. His bio reveals that his father left his mother and his eight siblings when he was only six. He was steadily working in bars by the time he was fifteen, and was married just three days shy of his 17th birthday (much to his credit -- and his wife's -- they are still married nearly three decades later).

"I attribute a lot of the sound of my music to paying my dues by growing up poor, a lot of 'hard work' jobs, and hitting a lot of brick walls in the pursuit of a music career," Martin says.  "If you actually wrote all about my life, people wouldn't believe it."

The first single released from the album is the humorous and cleverly written ode to the icons of country music, "If I Had Long Legs (like Alan Jackson)."  Although Martin pokes fun at himself when he sings about the celebrity attributes he is lacking, there is much more than humor on this album, and it won't take you to the end of the CD to realize that Martin isn't really lacking anything when it comes to writing or singing great country music.  Simply Traditional has all the required components to live up to its title. On a scale of 1 to 5 - I'm going to give it a 4.  I really enjoyed it and with thirteen songs plus two Christmas bonus tracks, you get more than your money's worth.


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